Way back when I used to live in Virginia, something magical would happen about once a month. I’d take off almost all of my clothes in front of another guy and he’d pinch me gently all over my body.
Meaning, my friend and personal trainer Yoda would use calipers to measure my body fat. I came to him with 24% body fat way back in March of 2006. By the time he was done mentoring me four months later I’d dropped down to 12%.
The monthly ritual of charting my progress was both terrifying and exciting. Weight, BMI, physical dimensions, the fit of clothing. These are all interesting, but the one that really means the most to me is body composition. I didn’t want to be a 180 pound guy carrying around 45 pounds of fat.
Anyway, time has ticked by. I am in Minnesota, and I’ve gotten fattier again. I also work out 100% in my house (or outside near my house) and I didn’t want to find a personal trainer just to caliper six places on my body.
I contacted Yoda earlier this month to ask the best way to track my body fat at home.
Yoda has since moved on from my gym back home and opened up one of his own with his wife. He said that calipers were still the best way to measure body fat outside of a water tank and it would be possible for me to learn how to do it.
The catch was that Sedagive? would also have to learn how to do it.
Yoda said that they use the Omron HBF-306C at their gym as a quick way to measure a lot of students quickly.
Before you begin
Before you use any in-home measurement system, including a tape measure, you have to accept a few things:
- The measurement is an approximation. Don’t take any body fat measurement from a tool like the HBF-306 as an absolutely accurate data point.
- Consistency is the key. Just like using a tape measure, a consistent measurement, environment, and circumstances are key to the most reliable number possible.
- Chart progress, not the start and end points. Did you lose or gain body fat this measurement period? Did your waist go up or down? The journey is the important part.
The Omron HBF 306 uses electric current to measure the amount of fat in your body. The unit can store up to nine profiles with data points such as height, weight, gender, age, and activity level.
There is no historical record stored on the device, so make sure you write down your measurement after each session.
There are two contact points on the Omron HBF. You turn it on, designate who is about to get measured, and grab the thing with both hands. You hold the device out at a 90° angle (arms straight out). Your middle finger will wrap around the back of the grip, and your thumbs will point straight up. Try to grip the handles with as much of your hands as possible.
I highly recommend you read and keep the instructions. The unit isn’t complicated, but it definitely helps to understand how the profiles are recorded and used. It is also useful to have a refresher on how to get the best measurement possible.
The Omron comes with instructions on the best times to take your measurements. It advised to take measurements at the same time and with the same amount of hydration. The instructions also recommend not taking your measurements after a workout or after a meal.
Sedagive? and I decided on taking our measurements every other Monday morning, right before our morning workout and before we’ve had anything to drink.
Using the device was easy, quick and painless (I knew the latter part, but I thought I’d write it just in case you were concerned about the electrical pulses).
I recommend the Omron if you are working out at home and don’t have the time to get calipered or access to someone who has been trained to use calipers. I also recommend this to people who might be self-conscious about getting calipered. Even though I was in reasonable shape compared to some of my peers when I started my odyssey with Yoda so long ago, it stripping down to nearly nothing and having him survey six points of my body was a wake-up call for my self-image.